The Los Angeles Clippers are headed to the playoffs this year for just the second time in 15 years.
Over the last few decades, Clippers fans have at times been tortured beyond reason.
Recent draft picks like Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles and Shaun Livingston have tantalized but never materialized.
Productive players like Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and Elton Brand have left.
However, a return to recent tumultuous times could be around the corner if any of these possibilities come true.
The biggest issue surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers right now is the allowance of star Blake Griffin to be repeatedly punished by other teams.
Phoenix’s Robin Lopez was the latest to hammer Griffin on a blatant cheap shot. He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.
The officials hit Lopez with a flagrant-2 and ejected him from the game.
But the Clippers cannot rely on the officials to police their games. Instead they need to handle things themselves.
It’s like in baseball: If Matt Kemp gets ear-holed in the first inning, you can be sure Clayton Kershaw is throwing at the other team’s star player in the fifth.
Until someone on the team—namely Kenyon Martin and DeAndre Jordan—steps up and shows some toughness, Griffin will continue to get drilled, risking severe injury.
That was a week before Reggie Evans flopped harder than John Carter.
Van Gundy suggested those who flop get punished. After a certain number of flops, a player is fined or suspended—much like with technical fouls.
Normally, when Van Gundy talks you can turn your ears off. But in this case, he has a point. And it’s a point that could hurt the Clippers big time if it is implemented.
Evans isn’t the first Los Angeles Clipper to hit the deck without reason. In this January game, the Clippers were on the floor enough to merit overtime pay for the kids wiping up sweat.
Van Gundy’s idea is to punish such players. In the unlikely event NBA Commissioner David Stern takes action against actors, the Clippers will need to change their game or spend a lot of time on the suspended list.
DeAndre Jordan is the Clippers second-highest paid player behind Chris Paul.
He shouldn’t be.
Jordan is a good shot blocker and an OK rebounder. He is a below-average scorer, although he makes a high percentage of his shots.
Jordan is an interesting case. He improved greatly between his second and third season, but has stagnated in his fourth year.
For Clippers fans to be able to stomach the $10.5 million he is due next season, Jordan needs to dramatically increase his production.
Teams cannot pay that much for eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks a game.
If the Los Angeles Clippers beat the New York Knicks Wednesday and somehow the Los Angeles Lakers lose to the Sacramento Kings the next night, the two teams will finish the regular season tied at 41-25.
But Los Angeles remains in the three seed by virtue of owning the better head-to-head record for the season.
This is a subtle reminder to the Clippers that the Lakers are still the big show in town—still the No. 1 tenants of the Staples Center.
It also leaves the Clippers with a tougher playoff matchup. The Lakers will face off against the Denver Nuggets in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 series, while the Clippers will take on a formidable Memphis Grizzlies team.
As fans watch the two L.A. teams in the playoffs, Clipper backers will be left wondering “What if?” as the first round unfolds.
Carmelo Anthony could cost the Clippers home court advantage
Currently the Clippers and Grizzlies have even records with Los Angeles owning the tiebreaker.
Each team has one game left.
A Memphis win and L.A. loss swings home-court advantage in the Grizzlies’ favor.
The way Carmelo Anthony has been playing makes the Clippers game more of a challenge.
Owning home-court advantage is huge come playoff time. Missing out on it could cost the Clippers a trip to the second round—not to mention robbing fans of an extra chance to watch them play at home.
Home court won’t matter if the Memphis Grizzlies are clicking. Remember, this is the team that beat the San Antonio Spurs last year when the Grizzlies were a No. 8 seed.
Only this year’s team is better with a healthy Rudy Gay in the lineup.
Memphis has more postseason experience than Los Angeles, which could be key in late-game situations.
After taking a big step forward from the disastrous years of recent past, getting swept in the first round would be enough to bitter the sweet taste in the collective mouths of Clipper fans.
Landing Chris Paul left the Clippers without a first-round draft pick in 2012.
As it sits now, Los Angeles will be left making one selection, and it will be late in the second round.
This is the second straight year the Clips are without a first-round draft pick after several years as a lottery mainstay.
It’s difficult to call a second-round pick a bust, so the Clippers don't have to worry about their pick not living up to expectations. L.A. more than likely won’t land a star this year, a la Blake Griffin in 2009. But with only one pick, the team would like to find a player who can contribute.
Clipper fans need not be reminded of all the horrors of draft days past. But for the sadists out there, here’s a history lesson.
Blake Griffin is one of the most ferocious dunkers in the NBA. He powers home jam after jam, posterizing other teams’ big men nightly.
Nobody can stop a Griffin dunk.
Both were offensive fouls.
Neither were called—nor will they be any time soon because of Griffin’s status as one of the most exciting players in the game.
But if a referee develops a disdain for Griffin, that official can neutralize a monster dunk the way no defender can by calling Griffin for an offensive foul.
Is Donald Sterling the worst owner in sports?
Many would say yes.
For 30 years he has manned the franchise’s main desk with a wrath spanning the spectrum from indifferent to cruel.
He sat idly by as the team lost and lost and lost. He overspent on player after player after player.
Those are the things that hurt the franchise.
But it’s elsewhere that Sterling makes his case for being the worst owner in sports.
The man heckled his own players. What worse way to motivate the people you are paying than to belittle them in front of their peers?
In addition to heckling players like Baron Davis and Chris Kaman, Sterling has been accused of being a downright bad person.
He is not the man you want calling the shots for your team.
The worst thing that could happen to the Los Angeles Clippers this season is to see Kobe Bryant hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Losing out on the No. 3 seed to the Lakers is a slap in the face, but should the Lakers go on to win another championship, it would be a backhanded ring slap to the face.
Then the Clips will be forced to see another Laker title banner lifted into the rafters of their own so-called home arena and spend another offseason hearing about how great a team the Lakers are.
It would turn L.A. back into a one-team town.